Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Productivity

I was thinking the other day of the highs and lows of loneliness and connectedness in my life.

And then I was thinking of the highs and lows of productivity in my life.

plot of sin and cos curves

And then I was trying to think of how they intersected.

(not my strong suit, spatial relations)

But before I can explain my analysis of this relationship for the benefit of all you writers out there, I feel compelled to highlight the difference between loneliness and solitude.

paul tillich quote loneliness solitude

I enjoy a lot of solitude in my life right now. I work outside the home one day a week, maybe two. I live alone (well, now there are two cats, as of two weeks ago–yes, we are all three still alive). I live on a tight budget because revenue is currently at a trickle, which means not a lot of going out for meals and drinks with friends.

As an introvert, I love looking out at heaps and bunches and gobs of alone time such as this. As a social human, I do manage to stick a pin in, here and there, for Gaelic, karaoke, coffee, etc. but I do enjoy structuring my own time.

Mornings have a certain rhythm.

Chores don’t feel so onerous when they are break from intellectual work.

I SO enjoy not having to worry about another person’s comfort in my space.

introverts often alone rarely lonely

But in between these yawning stretches of satisfaction and comfort, I sometimes miss having someone to talk to, to hand me a mug of tea, to drive me somewhere, to change the light bulb. You know, share the responsibility of being an adult in the modern world. Key word: share.

Another key word: witness.

That is loneliness. And it only gets worse when you try to reach out for a connection–what the Gottmans call a bid for connection–and are met with flakiness (I’ll drop by) or dismissal (I can’t right now).

In terms of how this interacts with my writing life, I think that solitude clearly allows for work to be assessed, scheduled, and accomplished, if not quickly, at least when the projects are ripe creatively.

But loneliness? It builds a wall around the writer and makes the vision go blurry and the creative impulse go slack. We may write a world into being in order to feel connected, but eventually we’ll realize we need the real thing.

Characters can’t give you a hug. Neither can they laugh at you with that sparkle in their eyes that makes you feel part of a tribe.

When I think about the times when I am most writing-productive, it is when there is a clear goal, a flexible strategy, a loose and diverse community, and a finish line in sight. You know what I’m talking about, right??

NaNoWriMo! I’ve written four out of my five novel-length drafts during NaNo. Not that they came out perfect, but they came out. It has proven to be a good annual challenge for me, so I intend to keep using it. You may have a similar retreat time every year, or a weekend ritual, or a great critique group.

Think about how your ritual is or isn’t working. Ask yourself if solitude or loneliness might be playing a part.

Try giving yourself some more solitude. And if the mean reds start to get you down, reach out! Play in some snow! Dial a friend! Sing a song! Host a potluck! Attend a bookstore reading!

When you settle back down, you’ll feel all right. And the work will get done.

 

Image via Univ. of Georgia, Pinterest, & Pinterest